Preview: Learning from Experience; My Biggest Disaster and What it Taught Me by Jane Ahlfeld

July 30, 2012

Jane Ahlfeld

Although it never became a disaster, I do remember a day when I pushed the limits a bit and was using a little luck to get back safely. Teaching sailing on the coast of Maine can produce some challenges, one of the biggest being fog. It was my third week in a row where the fog was keepig us close to the anchorage without an opportunity to get out amongst the islands. With WoodenBoat School courses that are only a week long, I always want to provide the students a variety of experiences and scenery. This was an all women's class, and on this particular day the fog had scaled up enough to have 2-mile visibility, so as we got out into Eggemoggin Reach, I felt it was okay to make the break and try to circumnavigate the two Babson islands—a course I had done many times. We had three Herreshoff 12 1/2s in the group, and I was on the only boat that had an instructor (me), although the students were becoming good at sailing. What developed, however, was a challenge beyond their skill. Tailing us for safety was a chase boat with the school’s waterfront staff aboard. Each boat had a VHF radio, a lesson learned years before when one of our boats got lost in the fog due to a compass malfunction. (Luckily that lost boat met up with a passing yacht that did have a VHF and hence we were able to connect and get them back home.)

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